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South End encampment to be managed as ‘temporary’ home for homeless

Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 4:32 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 7:18 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington officials say a homeless encampment in the city’s South End may be here to stay.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says they have been unsuccessful in finding housing for the folks that live at the Sears Lane site, so for now, the encampment on city property will be allowed to continue.

“We are shifting gears now,” Weinberger said Tuesday. He says that after attempting to clean up the Sears Lane encampment this spring and trying to place occupants in more permanent housing, the site will stay open for the summer. “We will be in the coming weeks going to the City Council with a proposal that would essentially have the city partnering again with a nonprofit to actively manage that site.”

The mayor says that the city is building on the lessons learned from the North Beach camp it managed last year. “At least during this time of really heightened pressure on the housing system, that this be a housing resource, part of that overall housing system, and managed professionally and safely,” he said.

The announcement is welcome news to John Trigg, a resident of the encampment. “I believe he is very understanding, I believe he has a right idea,” Trigg said.

It comes as the state’s hotel voucher program will be scaled back next month from a pandemic high of 2,000 rooms, down to about 650. Trigg says he expects to see more neighbors in the coming weeks. “It has been growing. People are in need. They are coming, it’s summertime, we are trying to be a community to help each other,” he said.

Some neighbors nearby the encampment told WCAX they continue to have concerns about safety, noise, and stolen property. But others further down the block say they don’t have an issue. “I don’t have any feeling against them staying there as long as they don’t create any issues for anybody,” said Jean Wright of Burlington.

“I mean, that’s fine with me. I haven’t had any problems,” said Tim Ely of Burlington.

For those who are concerned, the mayor says housing these people on city property is only a temporary solution. “We are going to actively manage this to ensure there are no public safety or public health issues,” Weinberger said.

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